I guess it’s time to stop counting the days. But somehow counting the days gave my life meaning and a sense of purpose or awareness. When I first started this blog, I wasn’t counting…just feeling out the writing thing on a daily basis. I wasn’t a writer and was never very good at writing, so I wasn’t sure of this blog thing, and if I would like it or not.
I started a 100 day countdown, until we moved to the Netherlands. Because I was counting and being aware of the days passing, I felt like I should make each day meaningful – sort of because I wanted to have something to share and to have something interesting to write about. Counting the days until the big move helped me to realize how limited time really is and how quickly it is gone. Each individual day I wasn’t really aware of time passing, but as I started to write the days down and could see the decrease in numbers, I became very aware.
I learned something BIG from doing this. I made the most of my days. Not just because I was counting them, but mainly because I was aware of the time change and that I would be leaving soon. Before I left California, I wanted to do everything I ever wanted to do and experience before I couldn’t anymore – not that I couldn’t ever again, but I didn’t know when I might be able to do the things here or see the people I love again, so I wanted to be sure to really enjoy all that I could before leaving. And so I did. And I lived it up. I lived in the moment – kind of felt like I had a death sentence – but I didn’t. I received a life sentence. We all have one… but somehow along the way, we forget.
We get busy. We work. We have kids. We have mortgages. We get stuck.
Counting down the days, I became unstuck. I became alive and stopped making excuses. “So what?” became my mantra and I was able to do so much more. I discovered happiness. I discovered really living in the moment and I became hooked on the endorphines of this awareness. And I took this with me to the Netherlands.
Once we arrived, I changed the count. I started counting the days living abroad as an expat. I was curious how long we’d be away and everyone I’d meet would always ask the same questions… How long have you been here? How long will you be here? Where are you from?…
The only real answer I had, besides where we were from, was the exact number of days we’d been in Holland because I was documenting the count and people would laugh when I knew to the day how long we’d been there. When I’d answer their next question – How long will you be here?… that made some people uncomfortable. We had agreed to one to three years, but were at first only wanting to be away for one. When we told our new friends we were only planning on a year, everyone told us that was much too short of a time. The best practice of time spent as an expat seems to be 3 years. The first year you’re getting settled, the second year you’ve settled into your routine and have developed friendships and structure, and by the third year you’ve seen it all, and are really ready to go back to where you came from, or move to the next expat location. One year didn’t seem like an option or a best practice, according to the “experts.” But one year seemed good for us…I’ll have to wait and see and feel how I feel about this after I’ve experienced this transition to know for sure… but I think it’s ok.
I felt like we were “speed dating” in Holland. We quickly moved in and settled and created a great little life for ourselves – filled with friends and family and community and travel opportunities. I’d say within 3 months, we felt like we belonged in Holland – if not sooner. So from my perspective, we didn’t need the full year to feel settled and were able to absorb and enjoy our new land and home right away. And since we weren’t exactly sure how long we’d be there, we chose to make the most of our days. And the counting continued… and process of enjoying life in the moment became my reality.
Here I Am (the title of my blog) became more than just about living abroad. It became truly living with the ups and downs and in betweens. I originally chose to share our journey, thinking I’d connect with family and friends so that they could be part of our experience back home. I also thought it would serve as a memoir for our family to look back on, so I could remember what we did and felt during our year abroad, as I don’t have the best memory. I also hoped that it might help other expats who were thinking about moving overseas, to give them a glimpse of the “real world” from my perspective, one perspective. I wanted to share the best of Holland and the highlights from our travels too.
Through the process of writing and sharing, I feel like I have been given an unexpected gift. I was given the gift of presence… to be fully alive and to be fully aware of how lucky I am to Just Be… perfectly imperfect. I don’t have life all figured out, but I know I want to live it up each day and make the most of the days I’m given while I am able. I wish the same for you.
I hope that you will also be aware of this one beautiful life you’ve been given, and that you’ll stop and pause and think about where you want to go and what you want to do, despite all the burdens, responsibilities and any obstacles you may face. What will you say “So what?” to, and do what you want anyway? You can, you know… give yourself permission and go after your dreams. What are you going to BE today? What are you going to DO today? Just do it…
I’ll stop counting now, as I think I’ve learned this lesson. I’ll just be sure to remember our days are limited and we really never know the exact answer as to how long we’ll be here and when are we going home.
Namaste. Live it up. Love it Up.
p.s. My first day home was great. We went to Target, had lunch at Panda Express, and had friends stop by and call and chat. I got my cell phone connected and CJ made dinner for us with my mama – our yummy family favorite, Chicken Pho Soup. I took a little nap before dinner, and afterwards, we went for a walk around the neighborhood before stopping in at April’s house for a quick visit. My anxiety is gone and it’s really nice to be home… thanks, for asking! xo